Royal Commission: 'No surprises' for former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson

NO SURPRISES: Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson said it was very clear there was a “systemic, long-term corrupt culture” that existed in the diocese.

NO SURPRISES: Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson said it was very clear there was a “systemic, long-term corrupt culture” that existed in the diocese.

STEVE Smith fought to be heard by the Anglican Church’s Newcastle Diocese for more than 40 years.

On Thursday, he finally felt “vindicated”.

“It makes me feel angry that it’s taken 40 years to get someone to finally stand up and say this is wrong, what they did was wrong and everything I said was the truth,” the child sex abuse survivor said.

STEVE SMITH

STEVE SMITH

“I’m nearly 57 years old and I was 14 when I first reported this; 43 years of my life wasted dealing with this crap. But it’s finally over now.

“This is a full stop for me. I can finally get on with the rest of my life, what I have left.”

Mr Smith told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse that he was sexually abused by Newcastle Anglican priest George Parker as an altar boy, aged 10, and how the church “ganged up” to discredit him and his family.

Parker, who was supported by Dean of Newcastle Graeme Lawrence, and represented by lawyers and senior diocese members Keith Allen and Paul Rosser, QC, was charged decades later but the charges were withdrawn. 

The trial ended after a diary was brought to court by then diocese registrar Peter Mitchell, that appeared to show Reverend Parker could not have been at a location at times when Mr Smith said he was abused.

“They knew what they were doing was wrong,” Mr Smith said. “It was all about the church protecting itself. The consequences to me and my brother and anyone else who got in their way was irrelevant.”

Mr Smith said he would be forever grateful to Detective Sergeant Jeffrey Little, the head of the strike force set up to investigate allegations that child sex offences were concealed by clergy in the Hunter, for recharging Parker three weeks before he died.

“The church had so many opportunities to make this right and they failed at ever turn,” he said. “Maybe they’ll finally listen to this, finally understand what they did was so terribly wrong.”

Former Newcastle Anglican bishop Greg Thompson, who resigned in March only months after exposing shocking opposition to his strong stand on child sexual abuse in the Newcastle diocese, said there were “no surprises” in the royal commission’s findings.

Mr Thompson said it was very clear there was a “systemic, long-term corrupt culture” that existed in the diocese. He said the church had a “long way to go” to re-establish its credibility. 

“If there is something hopeful in this, it’s the courage of the survivors,” he said. “We cannot continue to hold people above question as the church did for so long.”

Mr Thompson said the only way forward was for the church to commit to outside scrutiny including an independent audit for child protection and safety.